Musician-turned-filmmaker Thomas Crane got his start creating music videos for his own band Marion Crane. He founded killDevil Films as an outlet for his dark imagery and soon began producing videos for other artists. Since then, he has directed, filmed, and edited over 100 music videos, several commercial projects, and one short film – working with artists such as Todd La Torre, Kamelot, Eve to Adam, Jasmine Cain, New Dilemma, ViFolly, Avenging Benji, and many more.
In 2019, his first narrative production was released – “Halloween Party”, a 38-minute horror/thriller short film, and it won The Florida Spotlight Award at The Spooky Empire horror convention in Tampa. The film is now available on Amazon Prime.
INFRARED MAG: First and foremost thank you for taking the time to sit down and chat with us at Infrared Magazine.
THOMAS CRANE: Thank you for having me. Anytime.
INFRARED MAG: Can you please tell us about killDevil Films? When was killDevil Films founded? What are some of killDevil Films biggest accomplishments?
THOMAS CRANE: killDevil Films came about by happenstance. I was performing in my band Marion Crane at the time ten years ago, and we had the bright idea to film our own music video. The only video skill I had the time was editing – I knew nothing about cameras, lighting, shot construction etc. So we filmed a video, then a few months later did another one and kept doing them, and each one I learned a little more and got better at it. Then every so often, another local band would hit me up to do a video for them too.
I think I came up with the name killDevil Films sometime around 2014 but even then it was just a hobby at the time. I never thought I would do anything with it or that it would be my career. But it just continued to gain steam and I kept getting more bands who wanted me to do their videos.
Then in 2017 something great happened – at the time I had a desk job working for a bank – it was a “comfortable” situation, with benefits and all that but I hated being stuck in a cubicle all day doing non-creative things. I wanted to pursue film full time and at this point, I had only done about 15 music videos or so. Even though I wasn’t quite “ready”, I started crafting a plan to transition to video full time within six months – then about a month after I made that decision, the “great” thing happened – I got fired from my comfortable job. This put the plan in hyper drive and it was time to “make the jump”, ready or not. It’s quite interesting what you can do when you have to do it. It was very difficult at first and I struggled getting established for the first year but with enough hard work and grind, it finally took off.
As far as accomplishments go – up until now, I think one of the biggest accomplishments has been just being able to have a self-sustaining career doing music videos without living in a major hub like L.A. or New York.
Another accomplishment was just getting my short film “Halloween Party” finished in the first place. There’s a big backstory to it but I basically had to shoot that film twice and all the issues I had with the project were very trying personally and mentally. It was an act of will just to get it to the finish line – I learned a lot on that project . But just getting it made, then seeing it win some awards was a very satisfying moment.
INFRARED MAG: What kind of releases can we expect from killDevil Films?
THOMAS CRANE: Music videos are about 90% of our releases currently. We do occasionally get different type of projects, like commercials, modeling portfolios, and social media promo.
INFRARED MAG: What does the future hold for killDevil Films?
THOMAS CRANE: We will continue doing music videos but I’m definitely planning some expansion. The next chapter for the company and myself is more narrative, film projects. I have several short film scripts that I would like to get made as well as the eventual jump to feature length films.
I did my first short film 3 years ago – and I’ve improved in a lot of ways since then, so I’m ready to revisit the medium again.
INFRARED MAG: Where can we watch killDevil Films releases?
THOMAS CRANE: You can watch our releases on our official website: www.killdevilfilms.com as well as our Facebook page. The short film “Halloween Party” is available on Amazon Prime.
INFRARED MAG: When did you first realize that you wanted to be a director?
THOMAS CRANE: I don’t really know the exact moment that happened. I grew up watching movies. Some classic films, some terrible 80’s horror movies and everything in between. I’ve just always loved the medium. Growing up, I don’t think I knew exactly what a director did – but being “the person who put it all together” sounded appealing.
When I first started out doing videos, I was very green at the time. A lack of experience and not quite being as forceful with my ideas as I should’ve been. Over time that faded away, as I got used to working with artists and actors, and a confidence built.
INFRARED MAG: What are your favorite horror films?
THOMAS CRANE: I love the whole genre, from the great films to the bad cheesy gorefest ones, but my absolute favorites are the classics: Halloween, The Shining, Psycho, Night of the Living Dead, Se7en, The Exorcist, Jaws, Black Christmas, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Scream, and A Nightmare on Elm Street.
INFRARED MAG: Who are your biggest influences as a director?
THOMAS CRANE: David Fincher, Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock, Quentin Tarantino, John Carpenter, and Martin Scorcese.
INFRARED MAG: What, in your opinion, is the most important quality in a Film Director?
THOMAS CRANE: Staying focused on the end goal, which is bringing your vision to fruition and making this project the best piece of art it can be with what you have to work with. As the person in charge, you’re going to constantly be making decisions, sometimes about little things, sometimes about big things. You’re going to get bogged down on figuring out logistics, and working with/communicating your ideas to several people whether its cast and crew, you’re going to run into problems. There’s tons of moving parts. Don’t let any frustrations or challenges with the minutiae derail you from the endgame.
INFRARED MAG: How would you describe your directing style?
THOMAS CRANE: I am very laid back. A smooth steady hand. I have a very reactive creative mind – meaning, we’ll be on set, and an actor will have a look/expression or a movement that they do (and not even realize it) and then that’ll spur an idea in my head, so I might have a suggestion for them, then they take that and go with it and we just work it out together, like a creative feedback loop. It’s an energy you both feed off.
I may have a general idea of what I want from the performers but at the same time, I want them to have some freedom, whether its a band or an actor. Sometimes they will bring things to the table that I never would have thought of and I love that.
And when it comes to these music videos, I always say “this should be fun”. You should enjoy your music video shoot. Yes, we’re here to get things done, and I will be forceful about that if its not happening (that doesn’t happen often), but at the end of the day, this should be a fun, exciting process.
INFRARED MAG: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?
THOMAS CRANE: A little bit of both. Flexibility is key. Speaking for music videos – there absolutely needs to be an outline of what we’re going to do, so we can plan the logistics, have the proper sets and actors etc. However, once we have that set up and we’re rolling, on-the-spot ideas happen all the time. Not just ideas from me but with the band/actors that I’m working with too. I call it “controlled chaos”.
The thing is, you’re already there – the set is built, the lighting is in place, the actors are in their form – if myself or someone has an idea, let’s try it and see if it works. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. But you might as well try it. I will be the one editing this thing, so that’s when I find out if the idea worked or not.
INFRARED MAG: What has been your favorite project that you have worked on up to this point?
THOMAS CRANE: I have several favorite experiences, moments and adventures during them that I will always remember and appreciate. For instance, working with Kamelot was great in a lot of ways – my first tour run I did with them was in 2018 when I was still new at this, so being on a big tour bus, filming shows in 1,000 seat venues and traveling across the country with them was fresh and exciting. It was great to do it again with them in 2019.
Another favorite adventure was filming in a haunted abandoned grain silo in Texas with the guys in Post Profit. Creating an asylum and filming in a mansion with Todd La Torre. Filming twisted scenes with Inga Jensen and the guys in New Dilemma. Filming an exorcism with Harmony Miller and War of Thrones. Shooting ViFolly in Ohio with diesel fuel explosions going off all around us. The entire “Contagious” videoshoot with Losing September. Shooting the Cypher Machine video for “Nine” at the Kapok Tree in Clearwater, which was my first time working in such a grand location and first time working with 40 extras. And one of the most intense experiences, was filming a legit ritual with my partner Franki Markstone for my own video “Spook House”.
Each video is a new adventure.
INFRARED MAG: Who are your favorite artists that you have worked with?
THOMAS CRANE: I don’t think I have just one favorite artist – each band is a new experience, a completely unique set of personalities, and its own creative collaboration. One great side product of doing this, is that I get to be the 5th member of the band for a few days, and we bounce ideas back and forth and all work together to make the productions happen – so when the video is finished, you can look back and have a piece of art that you all created together. In many ways, the videos I do are their own diary for me – so when I watch old videos I did, it brings back to mind the entire experience for me – the brainstorming, the set building, the long hours filming, the fun we had creating together.
And another great bonus is that after working together, I usually become good friends with the band, their significant others and friends who are usually on set helping and the actresses as well and we tend to stay in touch even after the project is done.
INFRARED MAG: Who would you like to work with in the future?
THOMAS CRANE: Depeche Mode, Ghost, John 5, Lady Gaga, Dave Grohl, Rammstein, and Muse.
INFRARED MAG: You recently filmed the music video for “Crossroads to Insanity” from Todd La Torre of Queensrÿche. Please tell us about that experience.
THOMAS CRANE: Todd is such a talented musician – he is an incredible vocalist and songwriter. He also played drums on his solo record too. But beyond that, he’s a super good guy, very down-to-earth and easy to work with. We gelled very well creatively. I jumped at the chance to work with him and there will be more of that in the future.
He wanted to base the video in an asylum, so we brainstormed some ideas and got a plan in motion. It was a two day shoot at a mansion on St Pete beach. We did some set decorating and built some props. While the location we were shooting in was a grand space, the actual nuts and bolts of the shoot were actually pretty low key, as are most of my shoots. Its amazing what you can do with a $20 LED light from Walmart. My crew and even Todd and guitarist Craig Blackwell got involved in the scenes helping with the lighting. It was a group effort to make it all happen.
Melody Parker, who is a friend and I’ve worked with in the past, was cast as our head “evil” nurse of this institution. We also had Todd’s mother play the part of one of the nurses and his sister was one of the patients, which was a really cool thing, I know that meant a lot to him.
INFRARED MAG: What was your inspiration for the video for “Crossroads to Insanity?”
THOMAS CRANE: This video wasn’t steampunk itself, but what I always liked about steampunk was the concept of combining old aesthetic with futuristic concepts – which is what I tried to do. So the nurses and asylum itself has a very 1930’s feel to it, but I also incorporated the idea of a futuristic patient registry system, which you can see at the beginning of the video and throughout – that screen that’s mounted to the wall is basically a kiosk, for entering new patients in and the asylum itself operates it independently, as if it’s alive. Funny enough, that’s actually just my TV from my house – we turned it sideways so it’d look like a painting, and we took an old frame from a mirror and attached it to it and hung it – then I made a video loop of a patient check in system with some weird medical imagery in it.
I’d say the single biggest inspiration was probably “House on Haunted Hill”, the remake version with Geoffrey Rush (one of the few horror remakes I actually like). I loved the weird surreal lighting in that film and the idea of the building itself being alive. That was kind of my idea for the beginning when the kiosk types Todd’s name and says “enjoy your stay”.
The very beginning of the video, where we see the outside of the asylum, then Melody in front of the kiosk, then Todd being wheeled down a surreal looking hallway in a straightjacket – it all had a John Carpenter vibe to me. That mix of weird, dark and gritty – so that’s what I tried to go with when it came to feel and intro music.
INFRARED MAG: Do you have any new projects in the works?
THOMAS CRANE: As of now, I have several music videos that have been filmed but haven’t been released yet, which includes Saliva, another video for Todd La Torre, Appeal to Authority, Anything but Human, Surrender Stella.
I have new solo music that I am releasing this spring – a track called “Monsters Walk Among Us”. I am about to film the music video for it.
And also, I have 2 or 3 short films that I am starting pre-production on – and attempting to find a break in my music video schedule to get them filmed.
INFRARED MAG: What plans do you have for the future as a director?
THOMAS CRANE: Aside from the on-the-surface goals of expanding to more narrative projects – creatively, I just want to keep pushing myself to grow, improve, and learn. While I think I’ve gotten myself into a pretty good groove with my workflow, the learning never stops. You can always get better.
INFRARED MAG: What scares you?
THOMAS CRANE: Not living up to my potential.
INFRARED MAG: You find yourself on a desert island, which three people would you wish to be deserted with you?
THOMAS CRANE: My daughter. My partner. My best friend.
INFRARED MAG: What is it you’d like your viewers to remember the most when watching one of your music videos or films for the first time?
THOMAS CRANE: I want my work to have personality. Having professional gear and a good set is nice and all but that’s surface level. How you shoot, how you edit, how you let the images unfold are more important to me.
Whether you’re watching a film or a music video, I think the biggest goal is always to cause an emotional reaction in the audience. To tell a story in a way that sucks them in and takes them on a journey. Keep them on their toes. Make them want to watch it more than once.
INFRARED MAG: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
THOMAS CRANE: I’d like to thank all of those who have helped me along the way, whether it was helping out on a shoot, believing in me when I was struggling to get this thing off the ground, or just being there for moral support. A thank you to those who have watched my work and supported it. And a thank you to all the talented artists I’ve had the chance to collaborate with.
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